By Guest Blogger Danny Iny
Too many of us fall into the trap of trading time for money.
You may have already launched a product—but had disappointing results. Or you may have created a product that got some traction, but didn’t get the kind of success you’d hoped. Or, you haven’t developed a product yet, but you feel pretty sure you’d like one especially since….
Coaches, consultants, speakers, freelancers… all of us are in the same boat of working for an hourly wage.
Now, for some of us, the hourly wage can be very attractive; if it’s a cage, then it’s one made of gold, and studded with diamonds.
But still, it’s a cage; if we don’t work, then we don’t earn – which means that in some ways, we never get to take a real break and get off that treadmill without a gnawing fear in the back of our minds about what our business will look like when we get back.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way…
Your First (or second) Product: The Secret to Scalable Revenue
There’s a way to escape the time for money paradigm, and it lies within your first digital product.
As freelancers, we often find ourselves daydreaming of that perfect situation where we can walk away from our business for a few days without everything falling apart.
We think about what it would be like to create something that creates huge impact, making the world a better place.
And we think about how wonderful it would be to create that something once, and how easy it would be if it worked behind the scenes, even when we weren’t there.
We dream of vacations on white sandy beaches, holding drinks with tiny umbrellas and laughing with friends as the breeze gently sweeps across the beachfront.
All the while our business hums away quietly in the background, leaving us free to enjoy life.
But as much as we dream of this lifestyle, it’s not something we know how to create.
We aren’t sure how to scale our business outside the bounds of trading more time, or possibly the same time for more money.
You may have thought about building a product, but don’t know how to balance the time you’ll take building it with the money that you won’t be making in the meantime.
It’s a vicious cycle.
What if I told you that there’s a way for you to get paid to create your first product, while virtually guaranteeing that it will be successful?
There is, and when you implement the strategy, you will build a product that scales with ease, and it may not even matter if you’re there to deliver it, once it’s automated.
If Products Are So Great, Why Don’t More People Build Them?
It’s a legitimate question.
Up until now, product creation has been fraught with danger.
Using the standard model of product creation, an entrepreneur might spend months of their time and a serious amount of money slaving away to create what they are sure will be a groundbreaking new product.
The entrepreneur has spent enough time interacting with their audience to know exactly which of their great new ideas will be the best to build out.
They know their audience better than anyone else, after all.
But in the end, most entrepreneurs creating new products will have their offering met with a lukewarm reception, or even worse: silence.
The opportunity cost is too high for most people, and for those intrepid enough to break into product creation, failure can be painful and costly.
The problem here is that entrepreneurs base their product creation on an assumption.
And they not only start with an assumption, but they either use faulty reasoning to validate their ideas or don’t validate them at all.
So how do you avoid the assumption trap and create something that your audience really wants, and at scale?
You take a little lesson from the technology industry.
Rapid Prototyping for Training Products
Now that you know why so many others have failed before you, how can you avoid the same fate?
Start by listening to your audience, and using what they tell you to quickly and profitably validate that they want what you’re going to build.
By listening, we don’t mean just skimming over what they say, picking and choosing which pieces seem to validate the ideas you have.
It’s about meeting your client or customer’s deepest needs. You want to figure out what problems they are having, and the exact language that they use to describe that problem.
How do you find out that information?
1. Listen and Validate
The first step is to find out what your audience wants, and quickly test to see if they really want it.
There are several ways that you can listen to your audience that will help you discover what they would pay you to create for them.
- Listen to the questions that your audience sends to you via email. What are they asking for?
- How do they respond to your blog posts? Which posts are they sharing or talking about most on social media?
- The same thing applies to your emails and newsletters: which emails result in a lot of enthusiastic responses or questions?
- You can also “eavesdrop” on conversations on social media to find out which topics are the most discussed.
- Or, you can review comments left on blog posts and forums around the web. What questions are people asking repeatedly?
2. Dig Deeper with Surveys and Interviews
To dig deeper into the problems your audience is facing, you can create a simple survey, asking what their biggest challenge is.
And then, to gather additional information, you can conduct informational interviews with members of your audience or the people who responded to your survey.
These interviews can be conducted over the phone or by video chat. During the interviews, you can go in depth about the topic and the problem they are having.
3. Analyze Your Data
When you have finished your eavesdropping, surveys, conversations and interviews, you should have gathered a lot of data.
Your next step is to analyze the information you collected, looking for patterns and repetition of problem language.
If you have enough data points, and your audience really cares, you have likely just uncovered a problem that your audience is practically begging you to teach them how to fix!
4. Sell a Pilot Version
Finally, you need to validate that your audience will take out their wallets and pay you for the solution to their problem.
The best way to validate your product is to sell a pilot version of the course.
After the pilot, you can then use the outline and student feedback to build out your full product.
The process outlined above means that you will get paid, ahead of time, for creating a scalable product for your audience.
What’s even better is that this post includes both a case study about exactly how this works, and templates that will help you to create this success for yourself!
Case Study: The Course Builder’s Laboratory
At Firepole Marketing, we used this exact model of product creation as we built our soon-to-be-launched program, Course Builder’s Laboratory.
In our case, we had audience members and students in our Audience Business Masterclass come straight out and ask us to solve a problem for them.
We looked at all of the requests that came in and found there was a real pattern.
There were different ways that our audience asked for it, but in the end everyone wanted to know how to teach effectively online, and how to sell their own digital courses.
Then, rather than taking those requests and just building the final product, we used the process we describe in this post to validate that our audience would actually pay for the course.
We ran an initial pilot program called Course Builder’s Bootcamp; these live weekly calls went over what we thought the biggest pain points in terms of building and selling online courses would be. This program lasted six weeks in total.
We received some amazing feedback from the students, and were able to make smart choices about how to build out the final product in a valuable way.
We also ran a second pilot to gain more insight: a higher end in-person weekend in Montreal called Course Builders LIVE. We decided to run the additional pilot because the eventual course we were thinking of building was going to be HUGE.
This in-person pilot was a much smaller group, and allowed for a very intensive, hands-on experience for the students.
We were able to see places in the pilot curriculum where students were asking lots of similar questions, requesting additional features, or getting stuck – so we could fix them for the final version.
Through the two pilots, we were able to really refine the course material for the ultimate product. And we made about $70,000 while we were at it.
How to Do it Yourself, Starting Today
Following the process outlined in this post, you can easily create your first product.
Start by listening to your audience, analyzing the data you gather, and validating the problem that you think they are having.
Then, sell a pilot version of the product.
When you reach out to your audience, you will want to use the same language they use to describe the problem your pilot solves.
If having sales conversations isn’t your strong suit, we have created a set of free templates that will walk you, step by step, through how to get started creating and selling your pilot.
Then, once you’ve sold your pilot, you will deliver the content and gather feedback from your students.
Afterwards, you will use the basic outline of the course material and any student feedback to create your final product.
This final product is your key to scalable revenue.
So, does it feel like it’s time to break out of the hourly wage cage?
Then let’s get started!
We just have one favor to ask of you: send us a postcard from your next vacation!
Danny Iny is the co-founder of Firepole Marketing, and creator of the Course Builder’s Laboratory. For a limited time, he’s giving away a comprehensive “Done For You” swipe kit of email templates that you can copy-and-paste to sell your own pilot course